A Review on Biological Control of Fungal Plant Pathogens Using Microbial Antagonists

Journal of Biological Sciences 04/2010; DOI: 10.3923/jbs.2010.273.290
Source: DOAJ

ABSTRACT The objective of this study was to review the published research works on biological control of fungal plant diseases during past 50 years. Fungal plant pathogens are among the most important factors that cause serious losses to agricultural products every year. Biological control of plant diseases including fungal pathogens has been considered a viable alternative method to chemical control. In plant pathology, the term biocontrol applies to the use of microbial antagonists to suppress diseases. Throughout their lifecycle, plants and pathogens interact with a wide variety of organisms. These interactions can significantly affect plant health in various ways. Different mode of actions of biocontrol-active microorganisms in controlling fungal plant diseases include hyperparasitism, predation, antibiosis, cross protection, competition for site and nutrient and induced resistance. Successful application of biological control strategies requires more knowledge-intensive management. Various methods for application of biocontrol agents include: application directly to the infection court at a high population level to swamp the pathogen, application at one place in which biocontrol microorganisms are applied at one place (each crop year) but at lower populations which then multiply and spread to other plant parts and give protection against pathogens and one time or occasional application that maintain pathogen populations below threshold levels. Commercial use and application of biological disease control have been slow mainly due to their variable performances under different environmental conditions in the field. To overcome this problem and in order to take the biocontrol technology to the field and improve the commercialization of biocontrol, it is important to develop new formulations of biocontrol microorganisms with higher degree of stability and survival. Majority of biocontrol products are applied against seed borne and soil borne fungal pathogens, including the causal agents of seed rot, damping-off and root rot diseases. These products are mostly used as seed treatment and have been effective in protecting several major crops such as wheat, rice, corn, sugar beet and cotton against fungal pathogens. However, in some cases, biocontrol microorganisms have also been tested as spray application on foliar diseases, including powdery mildew, downy mildew, blights and leaf spots. A few post harvest fungal diseases have also been controlled by the use of antagonistic fungi and bacteria. Biocontrol microorganisms are also being used as the form of composts in some plants. Research data and observations in nurseries have shown that addition of composted organic matter to potting mixes results in suppression of soil borne diseases. A significant improvement have been made in different aspects of biological control of fungal plant diseases, but this area still need much more development and investigations to solve the existing problems. In order to have more effective biological control strategies in the future, it is critical to carry out more research studies on some less developed aspects of biocontrol, including development of novel formulations, understanding the impact of environmental factors on biocontrol agents, mass production of biocontrol microorganisms and the use of biotechnology and nano-technology in improvement of biocontrol mechanisms and strategies. Future outlooks of biocontrol of plant diseases is bright and promising and with the growing demand for biocontrol products among the growers, it is possible to use the biological control as an effective strategy to manage plant diseases, increase yield, protect the environment and biological resources and approach a sustainable agricultural system.

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